There's A Blaney Back with the Dodgers

VERO BEACH, Fl--- Dodgertown has always been in the forefront of Matt Blaney's life. His earliest memories are of the place; growing up, he shagged balls in the outfield and served as a batboy. He came back later as a player in the organization. Now, he's returned again, this time to learn the intricacies of the front office.

He was born in Vero Beach. Dad Charlie was the director of Dodgertown at the time so the young Matt got to know and even joke around with the players. He gladly served as a batboy in camp games (his older brothers had similar chores with the Vero Beach team).

When his dad was promoted to run the player development department for the club, the family followed him to the West Coast in 1987. Still, if spring break from school coincided with spring training, Matt could be found back on the fields of Dodgertown. During the summer, he regularly accompanied his father on trips back. And every chance he got, he worked out with coaches and players.

"My happiest times are associated with this place," he recalls. "I was one of six children but the only one who seriously got interested in baseball." So, he played high school ball, then became one of only two freshmen to make the squad at Loyola-Marymount.

"It was a nationally ranked team and they had some talented players. I had a good fall but the coach sat down with me and told me I'd basically be only a backup so after that year I started looking at other school. I visited the Villanova campus and fell in love with it. They basically had what I wanted -- a Division I program but one that I could play in. "

That he did, playing everywhere but pitcher and catcher. After graduating with a degree in communications, he was undrafted but he hooked on -- with the Dodgers, naturally. Dad was no longer working in the system, a victim of the shakeup that virtually swept the front office clean with Fox Sports purchased the team but Matt was wearing the uniform -- as a pitcher.

"I didn't think I had the best arm in the world so I knew I'd better get a special pitch." He taught himself the always-tough-to-master knuckleball. After signing, his dad prevailed on former Dodger Charlie Hough, who had used the pitch with success for over 20 years in the majors, to work with Matt.

Matt was assigned to the 2001 Gulf Coast Dodgers, a team that had considerable talent, winning its division. He roomed with Edwin Jackson and played with the likes of Victor Diaz, Franklin Gutierrez and present-day Vero Beach Dodgers Edwin Bellorin and Hong Chi Kuo. As a pitcher, he was effective when he got the knuckler over, not so much when he couldn't. "I guess that sums up my career," he admits.

Released by the Dodgers, he caught on the with Red Sox, advancing to the Florida State League. By then, however, he learned that he just wasn't going to make it as a player. Thus, he retired, then joined the Reds as a scout, working in the Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware region.

"I really knew I wanted to follow in my dad's footsteps in the front office," he declares, "So, I went to the winter meetings in 2004 and handed out my resume to anyone who would take it. I knew Trevor Gooby (then Vero general manager) and when he told me they had an internship open, I took it. " Trevor then joined the Pirates organization; however, Matt knew the new Vero G.M. Emily Christy from scout school so that wasn't traumatic.

Currently, he's added the role of business manager of the extended camp to his duties. That means he'll be at his desk in the minor league clubhouse as early as 7 a.m. When Vero Beach is home, he'll assume other duties at Holman Stadium in the evening. "It's a long day and the pay is low," Matt says." But I love it. The other interns (Brent Gambill and Shawn Marett) are great guys and we got along from the start. Dodgertown truly has a family feeling to it. "

His role in extended is very much hands-on experience. "Emily gave me the job and said, 'Go to it.' I often call her for advice." At Vero games, he's the man with the mike during the many contests that selected speculators are involved in between innings. As such, he's displayed the necessary ingredients for he's articulate and affable, able to make such activities enjoyable.

"I love the minors," he enthuses. "The fans, the players, everybody here." And he's blessed with an understanding wife. Lara, a school psychologist, now has a job herself -- at nearby Dodgertown Elementary, where else?

His mom is a native of Australia where she and Charlie are currently residing, taking care of her parents. But Matt's a Blaney who's very much a part of the Dodgers. It seems quite fitting.